Sometimes you taste something so sublime that all other versions suddenly seem mediocre. That’s Abernethy Butter for you.
I got to taste this amazing butter on a recent food discovery trip to Belfast. Blimey. It’s like eating gorgeously rich, lightly salted cream. And here’s why it’s so exceptional. Will and Allison Abernethy not only spent years searching for the perfect cream to make their butter, they also churn it by hand. Yep. Will Abernethy spends all day churning cream into butter, using a traditional churn.
This grueling commitment to butter perfection began as a hobby. Will and Allison would take their vintage churn to agricultural shows to demonstrate traditional butter-making methods. But the punters wanted to buy the luscious butter as well as watch it being made (it was handbags at dawn in a tussle for the last roll of butter at one event), and pretty quickly they had themselves a butter-making business.
They now make at least 300 rolls of butter a day – that’s 10 hours churning for Will – to satisfy orders from gourmet delis and top-end restaurants around the UK, including Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck, Marcus Wareing’s The Gilbert Scott and The Berkeley, Bell’s Diner in Bristol and Fortnum & Mason. The day I met them, this butter-crazy pair were fizzing with tales of a recent visit by Heston Blumenthal’s team who came to watch them make their butter and visit the dairy farm a few miles away in the Langan Valley where they source their cream.
“When we were starting out we tried lots and lots of different local creams, but this one is much richer and creamier than the others because of the way they pasteurize it on the farm,” Will says.
“Hand churning also makes better butter because all the water – or buttermilk – comes out. It just makes the butter taste better.”
Will churns the cream by hand until it separates into butter and buttermilk, then transfers the butter to a large bowl and washes it by hand until the water runs clear.
He adds a little salt to the butter before gently patting it into the distinctive Abernethy Butter rolls and wrapping it in greaseproof and brown paper. That’s it. The world’s best butter?
If you’re keen to try Abernethy Butter, Will and Allison are offering Pen and Spoon readers a fantastic deal where you can buy 5 rolls of butter for the price of 4. The shelf life of the butter is an amazing 12 weeks but it freezes well. If you want to take up this offer contact Allison via the contact page and say you’re a Pen and Spoon reader.
Fresh pasta with butter, herbs and cracked pepper
Like all the best ingredients, you don’t want to spoil this butter by doing very much to it. I made some delicious maple butter by whipping it with maple syrup on my return from Belfast, which went down very well with pancakes. This recipe came together with what I had to hand and is a reminder of how easy it is to make fantastic plates of food when ingredients are this good. It isn’t really even a recipe.
1. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions. I always do this for slightly less time than suggested.
2. Drain lightly, leaving some water clinging to the pasta, and return it to the pan. Add the butter, most of the Parmesan, lots of torn herbs and lemon zest. Gently toss.
3. Transfer to serving plates and scatter with a little more Parmesan, pine nuts and lots of freshly ground cracked pepper. Serve immediately.